October 22, 2022

Kathleen Jasper: Why we should IMMEDIATELY stop retaining 3rd graders

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It’s hard to believe that we have had the evidence for years about the problems with this terrible policy, and yet there are still several states that require their third graders to pass a standardized reading test before they can move on to the next grade. Way back in 2017, Kathleen Jasper published research that showed the issues.

3rd Grade Retentions
In 2003-2004, across Florida, over 23,000 3rd grade students were retained in accordance with the retention mandate in Florida’s A+ Plan. In some Miami—Dade Public Schools, 50% of third graders were retained.

Did students catch up?
In a study of third graders in Southwest Florida, 93% of the retained group in the study remained below a level 3 on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. In addition, 67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. Further, 41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

What did it cost?
Between 2003-2013, it cost Florida tax payers approximately $587 million FTE funding for the retained students.

Standard Diploma Acquisition
The non-retained group were 14.7% more likely to graduate with a standard diploma than the retained group.

Retention Demographics
Approximately 6% of white students were retained while 20% of nonwhite students were retained. Of the students retained in 2003-2004, 69.8% were on free or reduced price lunch.

There was a statistically significant difference between retained students and non- retained students regarding Grade 10 Reading FCAT mean scale scores (.000). There was also a statistically significant difference between ethnicity and Grade 10 Reading FCAT scores (.003).

In her published research, Jasper uses solid academic language that may seem like a slog for non-academic readers, but her conclusions are pretty simple and clear–retaining third graders over reading scores did not help in the long run, and in fact may have hurt student chances to catch up to their peers and even graduate from high school.

Read a more complete summary of the research written by Sandy Stenoff here. 

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